Dawn DaisDawn Dais is the author of The (Non)Runner’s Marathon Guide for Women, which is where I found the training guide I’m using for my half marathon. Here is a quick summary of the book from the publisher’s (Seal Press) Web site:

The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women is a fun training manual for women who don’t believe that running is their biological destiny but who dream of crossing the finish line nonetheless. It opens with a realistic training schedule and is chock-full of how-to’s, quizzes, and funny observations, which Dais felt were lacking in the guides she had consulted.

The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women also integrates entries from Dais’s journal, sharing everything would-be marathoners need to know about the gear, the blisters, the early morning workouts, the late-night carb binges, and—most important of all—the amazing rewards.

Anyone can do a marathon. This book just makes the experience a little more bearable and a lot more fun.”

Because Dais is from the Sacramento area (me too!) I was able to meet up with her last week for a chat about her book and what she’s working on now. I recorded our conversation, but cut out some of the parts where I talked way too much (I never realized how much I talk!) So here is the condensed version:

Your book was published in 2006, so I’m curious what year did you actually do your marathon?

Let’s see, it’s 2008 now, so I think it was 2003. It was a long time ago.

Were you going to Sac State at the time? Because you talked about managing your running schedule in between work and school.

No, I was working in accounting at the time and wanted to begin doing graphic design so I was taking classes at Sac City. I was just taking 3 or 4 classes to learn graphic design and then right after that I ended up moving over to graphic design as a career.

So you’re still working in graphic design?

Yeah. I work in graphic design to support my writing habit. Because, really, writing makes no money, well at least book writing.

Really? So what made you decide to write this book?

I was doing the marathon training, and if you’ve read the book you’ve seen that I’m a big proponent of journaling. I documented my training with photos, video and a journal, so really, with just my journal I thought I already had enough to write a book. Was I ever wrong. When I finally sold the book idea to a publisher, they wanted 70,000 words. I thought it was smooth sailing, I thought I had half a book, but when I did a workd count I only had 15 or 20,000 words. So originally it was going to be more like a memoir, but after I went over it with my agent we discussed making it a guide.

Also, I read that you’re working on another book? About cycling? What are you doing for it?

What am I doing for it? Well, I bought a bike and it’s in my garage. And I bought another bike and it’s in my living room. I faced it toward my TV because I thought, “This will be the ticket, I will ride this bike while I’m watching TV and it will be awesome!” It hasn’t really worked. Anyway, I was supposed to do the AIDS ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but I didn’t make the registration so now I’m going to go Europe and do a ride there.

So when will the book be out?

The deadline for my next book is November of this year, so I think sometime next year.

I’m training for a half marathon and have been looking for good training schedules, and yours was one of the longest training schedules I found (one was for only 8 weeks and wanted me to go out and run 8 miles this morning, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’) but when I looked up reviews of your training schedule online I found some complaints about it.

I’ve gotten a lot of shit for my training schedule, but when I went to the professionals and asked them for a training schedule this is what they gave me. This schedule is for if you want to walk and run. There is no shame in walking, especially if you’re not a runner. Another problem is the attention span. Four months is about the limit. I can do four months of anything, but I need to know there’s going to be an end to it. The thing with a marathon is the marathon is not the hard part AT ALL. It’s the training, it’s the 300 miles you have to run before you ever get to the marathon that kills you. It’s the long runs toward the end too. I mean, you run 15 miles one week and then you look at your schedule and see that you have to run 18 miles the next week. It’s really not an easy thing.

Now, I was looking through the book and saw that the training for a half marathon takes the same amount of time as the full marathon, so I was thinking maybe I should just go for the full?

Yeah, except you’re running twice as much. What I always tell people is if you’re training for the half marathon, try to find a marathon that’s another 3 or 4 months after the half and go for it. The thing is you’re already training for the half, you’re already running that much and if you take a break now you may not have the courage to go for it again. And, you know, for some reason running a marathon is on people’s list of things to do (which is beyond my comprehension) so if you’re already doing a half you might as well just go for the whole thing instead of having to start all over.

Oh, before I let you go I have to ask about the toenail. (In the book, Dais talks about how some marathon runners lose their toenails. She teases her running friend “Chipper Jen” about it to irk her, but at one point Dais talks about one of her toenails turning black and I freaked out. However, she never mentions it again so I didn’t know if she really lost any or not).

Oh God! I never lost a toenail. I mean, I’m not really a runner so it wasn’t really an issue. But I have runner friends who have lost toenails. Some of them don’t even have toenails to this day, but they’re regular runners, like hardcore runners. That’s just something that happens. Oh, and it never happened to my friend Jen and she was hardcore. I guess it just depends if you’re really pounding the pavement.

I’m so glad to hear it because I have been reading with trepidation about your toenails. I was seriously freaked out when I thought it had happened to you.

No, no.  I think if you’re running 5 or 10 miles a day it’s more likely. I thought for sure it would happen to Jen though and it didn’t. Of course, she had all this toenail stuff from the second I told her. She bought all this stuff to harden her toenails and soak her feet because she was so traumatized by it, but it never happened. I was SO waiting for it to happen too.

Oh, the other thing I loved in the book was how you talked about not losing a single pound during your training. I’ve been running for almost a year and have yet to lose any weight.

I think if you’re overweight you lose weight, but if you’re running you’re gaining muscle so it all kind of evens out. You can’t just look at the scale. I got solid muscles and I looked great, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. At the time I was so concentrated on the fact that I hadn’t lost any weight, but now when I look back at pictures I can’t believe how good I looked. I had abs! Why didn’t anybody tell me at the time? I would have tried to keep them.

So do you think you’ll ever run another marathon?

I think I will, but I’ll definitely need to do it with a trainer. And perhaps some kind of mechanical leg. I actually really want to. It sucks because it’s actually now on my list of things to do because I did so badly in the first one. I want to do one and finish in five and a half hours. I think I’m also going to do a triathlon after I finish this cycling thing, so I’ll definitely be running again. I just don’t know physically if I can do it again.

I want to thank Dawn for taking the time out of her busy schedule to meet with me on a Saturday to talk. It was great to meet her and I’m really looking forward to her next book.

Also, at the end of the interview Dais gave me a signed copy of her book to give away! So if you’re interested in reading her book (which you totally should be), leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a free signed copy. I will pick a winner this Sunday, June 15.